Tooth decay occurs when acids produced by bacteria and sugar break down the structure of the teeth. The protective outer layer, called the enamel, is the first portion of the tooth to be affected. If the decay continues, it can reach the nerves and blood vessels inside the tooth and cause pain and infection. Early stages of decay, called cavities or caries, can be treated with fillings.
A filling is a material that takes the place of the structure of the tooth that has been damaged by cavities. Dentists treat cavities by first numbing the location where the work will be performed, then removing the decay with a series of handheld tools. This leaves an indentation that would otherwise leave the tooth vulnerable to more problems, so a filling seals off the inside of the tooth and reshapes the outside. The filling material is soft and pliable at first but is hardened with a curing light after application is complete. The process of removing the decay and filling the cavity typically takes at least a half-hour, depending on the severity and location of the cavity.
How Teeth Are Restored
After diagnosing the problem and devising a treatment plan, the next step to restore a tooth to health is to make you comfortable. We will give you a local anesthetic so that you do not feel any discomfort. After the decay is removed, the tooth is ready to receive either a direct restoration or an indirect restoration.
A direct restoration means that the tooth can likely be restored in one visit and that there is sufficient tooth structure for the filling to go inside of the tooth. Examples of direct restorations are amalgam, which is silver-colored; and composite, which is tooth-colored. There have been more amalgam fillings placed worldwide than any other kind of filling, but tooth-colored fillings are being placed more frequently in recent years because they match the remaining teeth and look like the natural tooth.
An indirect filling means that the restoration is made outside of your mouth, either by a lab or by a milling machine. An indirect filling also needs to be cemented into place. Examples of indirect restorations are crowns, inlays, and onlays. A crown covers the entire tooth, an inlay fits inside the tooth and can replace a wall of the tooth, and an onlay replaces at least one cusp of the tooth.
Most indirect restorations take two or more appointments to complete, with the exception of restorations that are milled by a machine in the office. Cast gold is the most durable indirect restoration material, but porcelain ceramics are gaining in popularity because of their superior esthetic qualities.
Please see our Fillings Gallery to view the types of results we can achieve with these various materials.
- Resistance to surface wear
- Long lasting
- Wears well as it holds up to chewing force
- Brittle material can fracture
- Usually requires more than one visit
Do you need a filling? Call Nancy Y. Schumann DDS in Williamsburg, VA today at 757-564-0900 to schedule an appointment.